Argus Panoptes

Argus Panoptes

In Greek mythology, Argus Panoptes (Ἄργος Πανόπτης) or Argos, guardian of the heifer-nymph Io and son of Arestor, [Therefore called "Arestorides" (Apollodorus ii.1.3, Apollonius Rhodius i.112, Ovid "Metamorphoses" i.624). According to Pausanias (ii.16.3), Arestor was the consort of Mycene, the eponymous nymph of nearby Mycenae.] was a giant with a hundred eyes. His epithet "Panoptes", "all-seeing", was applied to the Titan of the Sun, Helios, and was taken up as an epithet by Zeus, "Zeus Panoptes". "In a way," Walter Burkert observes, "the power and order of Argos the city are embodied in Argos the neatherd, lord of the herd and lord of the land, whose name itself is the name of the land." [Walter Burkert, "Homo Necans" (1972) 1983:166-67.]

The epithet "Panoptes", reflecting his mythic role, set by Hera as a very effective watchman of Io, was described in a fragment of a lost poem "Aigimios", attributed to Hesiod [Hesiodic "Aigimios", fragment 294, reproduced in Merkelbach and West 1967 and noted in Burkert 1983:167 note 28.] :"And set a watcher upon her, great and strong Argos, who with four eyes looks every way. And the goddess stirred in him unwearying strength: sleep never fell upon his eyes; but he kept sure watch always."

In the fifth century and later, Argos' wakeful alertness was explained for an increasingly literal culture as his having so many eyes that only a few of the eyes would sleep at a time: there were always eyes still awake. In the second century CE Pausanias noted at Argos, in the temple of Zeus Laqrisaios, an archaic image of Zeus with a third eye in the center of his forehead, allegedly Priam's "Zeus Herkeios" purloined from Troy. [Pausanias, 2.24.3. (noted by Burkert 1983:168 note 28).] According to Ovid, to commemorate her faithful watchman, Hera had the hundred eyes of Argus preserved forever, in a peacock's tail. [Ovid I, 625. The peacock is an Eastern bird, unknown to Greeks before the time of Alexander.]

Argus was Hera's servant. His great service to the Olympian pantheon was to slay the chthonic serpent-legged monster Echidna as she slept in her cave [Homer, "Iliad" ii.783; Hesiod, "Theogony", 295ff; Apollodorus, ii.i.2).] Hera's defining task for Argus was to guard the white heifer Io from Zeus, keeping her chained to the sacred olive tree at the Argive Heraion. ["Bibliotheke, 2.6.] She charged him to "Tether this cow safely to an olive-tree at Nemea". Hera knew that the heifer was in reality Io, one of the many nymphs Zeus was coupling with to establish a new order. To free Io, Zeus had Argus slain by Hermes. Hermes, disguised as a shepherd, first put all of Argus's eyes asleep with spoken charms, then slew him by hitting him with a stone, the first stain of bloodshed among the new generation of gods. [Hermes was tried, exonerated, and earned the epithet "Argeiphontes", "killer of Argos".]

The myth makes the closest connection of Argos, the neatherd, with the bull. In the "Library" of pseudo-Apollodorus, "Argos killed the bull that ravaged Arcadia, "then clothed himself in its skin." [Bibliotheke, 2.4.]

The sacrifice of Argos liberated Io to wander the earth distracted by a gadfly sent by Hera.


The head of Argus makes an appearance in the arms of the French family of de Santeul. [cite web|title=de Santeul|url=|accessdate=2007-11-07]


External links

* [ Theoi Project - Gigante Argos Panoptes]

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